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Going Xolo: Happiness Can Be Hairless

Xoloitzcuintli at a dog show.


Going Xolo: Happiness Can Be Hairless

Dogs have been well-known throughout history as one of the best furry friends a man can have—but not all of them are furry.

Meet the Xoloitzcuintli, which has a coated variety but is largely a hairless breed.

The Xolo is a unique breed that attracts a broad range of people, including current Italian Greyhound and Xolo breeder Kayla Wise.

Interestingly enough, Kayla and her family started off in an entirely different breed.

“My parents have been breeding dogs since I was little,” Kayla shares. “At first we had ABCA Border Collies, but my Mom wanted a lap dog.”

After that, the family got heavily into the world of both Italian Greyhounds and AKC dog shows. It was during that time that one interesting breed at the AKC shows stood out and caught their attention—the Xolo.

The breed is truly one-of-a-kind with a distinctive look, thought of by the Aztecs to guard them in life and guide them through the afterlife while protecting them from evil spirits.

“Xolos are just different,” notes Kayla. “The bond we have with our Xolos is unlike any breed I’ve ever owned. The Aztecs believed their bond was spiritual, and after owning them, I tend to agree. They attach to their families like no other.”

AKC professional dog show handler Pepe Anastas is equally passionate about the breed, although he got his start with them a bit earlier. Pepe got an Akita as his first show dog when he was 12 years old, but grew up with Xolos as pets. Since then, he’s had a lot of success with them in the show ring.

“It’s very rewarding, as it’s not easy to win with a rare breed that is not as popular,” Pepe notes. “Every small win feels like a huge win. One of my goals is to set the record for the all-time winning Xolo and educate people about the breed according to the country of origin Breed Standard, with awareness of the AKC Standard.”

So, what exactly is it like owning a hairless breed like a Xolo? If the skin is cared for correctly and is without issues, “grooming,” if one could even call it that, is a breeze.

“The care for their skin is typically low maintenance, or should be, if they have good skin,” Kayla says. “I usually don’t do much with mine unless we’re going to a dog show, or unless someone gets especially smelly.”

Much like a person’s skincare routine, moisturizing and things like that are important.

“One good rule of thumb is to keep them moisturized and fairly clean, especially as puppies to reduce puppy acne,” notes Kayla. “But over-bathing can also cause issues. It’s a fine line, but one you get pretty good at walking when you actually own a Xolo.”

Curiously enough to what the layperson may think, not all Xolos are hairless despite the fact the breed’s name quite literally translates to
“Mexican Hairless Dog” in English. Kayla and Pepe have both become more educated on the coated variety, and it’s something that’s led to more righteous wins in the breed ring at dog shows.

The science behind how coated Xolos are born is an interesting one. “The hairless gene is dominant; however, it’s a homozygous lethal gene, meaning when you breed a hairless dog to a hairless dog, the puppies that acquire the two dominant hairless alleles are not compatible with life and are usually reabsorbed in utero,” Kayla explains. “This means every hairless Xolo carries the recessive gene for coated. So, genetically speaking, about 50 percent of every hairless to hairless breeding will be hairless, 25 percent will be coated, and 25 percent will be reabsorbed in utero.”

Even with some of the progress that’s been made with the coated dogs, there’s no denying it is still harder to win with one when Xolos are so commonly hairless. “Coated Xolos are typically a lot harder to finish than the hairless variety, although I’ve seen huge strides thanks to a lot of hard work by several breeders, including me,” Kayla says. “However, superior coated Xolos still lose to inferior hairless Xolos all the time. I would like to see them be judged as equal to the hairless variety in the near future. They’re a part of the breed and they always will be.”

After having success with coated Xolos and hairless ones (like the famous “Sancho” who won multiple awards before he was lost to a rattlesnake), Kayla looks to carry on the breed’s legacy through the dogs she currently has in the breeding program, and Pepe looks to continue promoting the breed as well.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to the betterment of the breed for these two individuals and all the others who enjoy this unique, primitive breed.

“One of my biggest goals moving forward is to continue working on temperaments while also focusing on structure,” Kayla shares. “This breed has come so far in the temperament department, but it’s a never-ending battle and I feel the worst trait for a breeder is complacency.”

“We can always improve.”

At the end of the day, it all comes down to the betterment of the breed for these two individuals and all the others who enjoy this unique, primitive breed.